Conflicts and wars have been the pinnacle of power in our society. Whether it’s about religion or global supremacy, there is always a motive to be the most powerful. To win and conquer. Now, there are other factors such as politics, racism, fascism, or some other extreme ideology that contributes significantly to the start of a war. The world has seen two world wars both triggered for different reasons, but with a root cause of chasing and fulfilling a political agenda. Take note, WWIII is looming and will be the greatest test to humanity
Essential commodity for survival
Water is an essential commodity for survival. Let’s just put this out there. If there is no water, then humans nor most animals can survive. Perhaps there could be some bacteria or an animal that could survive. Perhaps they would mutate over generations so that they could survive and reproduce. Could there be some kind of evolution making them resistant to water or survive with water ? It’s entirely possible, but not guaranteed. Considering the fact water is essential, it will become a coveted commodity by all as the population booms.
The fact the planet is heating up, more evaporation happens, and thus there is naturally less water. Take that on top of the human factor — two fold if you think about it. The first is the sheer fact that there are more people and those people are drinking more. The second fact is that pollution and poor infrastructure is killing the only fresh water that we have to drink. Of course, some could say desalination is an alternative — the Israelis have figured that one out quite well. If you don’t believe me, ask the Capetonians who were struggling for water and could buy desalination equipment and plants from Israel to solve their problem in the future.
That’s a short-term solution to the problem. Because, we continue to use pesticides that go into the rivers and tributaries, it eventually flows into the ocean. Once that happens, then the water is contaminated and it becomes more costly to clean and desalinise. The question is if methods currently available could clean the water sufficiently on a large enough scale. Assuming there is no fresh water lakes or other water sources left, then it becomes virtually impossible.
In either case, as countries’ populations grow, so does their need for water supply. At present, the world stage sets up for a real showdown. Some of the world’s largest powers are jockeying into position already and asserting their strength.
China’s strength and assertiveness
China has become a major global player in the last two or three decades. It’s an economic powerhouse that has grown at amazing economic rates for over a decade. Sure, the recent global crisis has hit China too. Nevertheless, the Government has weathered the storm quite well while positioning China’s future in different regions.
China has asserted its dominance with its claim in the South China Sea that extends far beyond its borders. Some claim that its assertion exceeds its maritime border too, but this has yet to be fully resolved. In laying its claim, China has extended its borders in Asia to valuable resources and strengthened its defence positions akin to Imperial Japan.
If you look at Imperial Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, the schematic is quite similar with the exception that China is not aggressively taking over the Marshall Islands or the Solomon Islands. Recall, Imperial Japan’s perimeter extended vastly across the Pacific from Singapore to the Philippines to the Marshall and Solomon Islands. Nevertheless, China’s regional power has grown and its regional influence is one to reckon with. That’s of course not to mention the Philippines recent allegiance to China due to its political row with the US.
Further to China’s expansion in the South China Sea, China has made considerable investment in Africa. Once again, China is shoring up its natural resources that it needs to sustain its population and interests. Of course, Africa doesn’t contain only water, but it surely has other resources that can be used for production like copper, gold, platinum, etc.
This expansion in Africa and the South China Sea assert not only China’s political and regional influence, but also the protection it needs to ensure constant access to scarce natural resources. Now, we’ve not mentioned the militarisation of the artificial islands, dubbed Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, in the South China Sea. This is another aspect that prepares China for any eventual conflict in the region. China’s made it an objective to build a reef that includes a landing strip for military aircraft. Of course, any infringement on this island would cause a military response. Again, if you look at it, China has secured water for itself while securing its outward perimeter and its interests.
Russia’s global influence
Russia has cosyed up to China’s President Xi in what is seen as a meeting of the minds. In addition, Russia has continued to assert its global influence with the annexation of Crimea as well as the joint military exercises that it is running with China. This makes Russia a contender and global power that can easily assert its claim to natural resources and ability to fight anyone for those resources.
Just take a look at the sheer size of Russia and the amount of territory Russia holds including its proximity to the Artic and oceans on both sides. This empowers Russia to easily dominate and fight for water — it’s got its own sea, but it may need to fight against others who could attempt to use it or take it. The positioning Russia has currently could make it self sufficient and arguably one of the few nations in the world that could be self-sufficient. Politics and corruption could prevent this from happening, but there is certainly the territory to do it and the population numbers to do it too.
So far, these are only two world powers. There are others across the globe that have their own interests. What can they do?
Other World Powers
Other world powers exert their assertiveness to some extent too, but in a more conservative manner. Some argue that Donald Trump attempts to exert American influence aggressively. Barring that aside, the US is one power that tries to influence globally. Others that come to mind are India, European nations, and even Brazil that still is developing and contains its own breadth of natural resources. In the end, they will all fight for the same resources as China and Russia.
The question is whether or not they have done enough investment and protection of their own interests. Asserting military dominance through weapons sales certainly sends a message, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of everyone for themselves.
Even with the some nations being friends and alliances such as NATO, these won’t hold. The simple fact is that everyone will need to fight for their own interests. Unlike previous wars where the Allies fought together to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in WWII, this won’t be the case. There is no common cause for which to fight, e.g. defeating Nazism.
Sure, some may band together to take out the strongest enemy, because they share some ideological similarities or strategic interests. In the end, it’s not guaranteed they would continue fighting together. After all, once they eliminate their foe, they still need to protect their own interests. That’s not to say that some may agree to disagree for lack of a better term. In such a scenario, they would figure out how to co-exist and find some way to not compete and fight all the time for the same limited resources that are out there.
While the alliances may be somewhat fractured or fickle, technology may be the saving grace. It’s not a definite certainty, but it could be something that could alleviate or at least prolong the start of WWIII. Now, let’s think about how we could leverage technology.
Technological innovations to synthesise water
We know water is a meteorological phenomenon. There is the rain cycle with evaporation, condensation, rainfall, runoff, and it repeats again. I’m not a scientist, but that’s it in a nutshell. The question of whether we can somehow use technology to synthesise H2O remains opens as to whether its economical and scaleable.
There are possibilities of synthesising water as a by-product of some reaction. But, the economics of doing so doesn’t seem to be viable given the cost of energy and lack of scaleability. Think about it — it would be onerous to produce enough water for 7 billion people with that number growing.
If we can’t synthesise water, then we need to try and recycle it. Problem with recycling is infrastructure is poor in most places especially in the developing world. There is no possibility of stopping leakage or collection points. Furthermore, culture needs to shift to work towards conserving and recycling water.
Necessary cultural shift
It’s fair to say that in some place, there is an acute awareness regarding the importance of saving water. It’s mentioned in schools or in communities. But, that’s not everywhere. It’s a problem that we’re not all aligned on the issue of water conservation, but also recycling that water. Of course, there are some initiatives to reuse grey water, but that’s not enough. Part of it is due to infrastructure, but the other part is the culture surrounding reusing and recycling water.
The big players have moved into position to conserve their resources and have access to more. They are militarising and spreading their influence globally. It’s these moves that lay claim to their stake in the world’s water supply.
We need to be ready as this supply depletes and the population continues to boom. It’s a call for us to take action and remind ourselves of the current shortage that looms. If you’ve not started, then it’s about time you do. The start of the war on water or WWIII is right around the corner.
Call to Action:
Take a moment to think about your water use and how you can contribute to saving water. It’s an opportunity for us to band together and do something about it before it’s too late. Feel free to share your comments as your perspective matters!